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tv   Today in Washington  CSPAN  January 16, 2013 7:30am-9:00am EST

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myself how badly that town had been flooded. i know that my right honorable friend has been discussing the recent flooding with rail chair and chief executive he will be visiting the area soon to look at this. we are working with their rail to improve the resilience of the overall network and we will do everything we can to make sure that these important services are maintained even when they're challenged by floods like the ones we saw last year. ..
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>> and stand back and say we're going to do fog about it. what britain should be doing is fighting for the changes we want so then we can ask for the consent of the british people to settle this issue once and for all. >> order. >> thank you, mr. speaker. can the prime minister tell the house what the government is doing to keep pensioners warm in this cold weather, and will he join me in congratulating the suffolk foundation for the success, for the great success of their surviving -- [inaudible] >> what this government has done is, first of all,tive the biggest -- give the biggest increase in the state pension of five pounds, 30 last year. we've kept the cold weather payments at the high level, and we're replacing the warm front scheme, and while that helps something like 80,000 houses a year, the eco could help up to
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230,000 houses a year. that is what we're doing, and it's a record we should be proud of. >> thank you, mr. speaker. the prime minister should know that the ons have recently released figures that show there were 24,000 extra cold weather deaths over the winter of 2010-2012. the majority of those who perished were over the age of 75. so, mr. speaker, can i ask the prime minister if he thinks his government should do more to help the elderly and the vulnerable and less to help millionaires with tax cuts? >> as i just said, we are doing more to help elderly and the vulnerable. a record state increase, bigger than what the party opposite would have done keeping cold weather payments at the higher level that the last government only introduced before the election. keeping our promise on winter fuel payments, taking all of those steps and making sure, again, something never done by the party opposite that energy
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companies will have to put people on the lowest tariffs. that is a record we can be proud of. >> steve basic. >> mr. speaker -- [inaudible] my constituency is enb during a hideous regulatory fast thanks to the health and safety executive and the european union. the british economy is very reliant on small and medium businesses far less able to cope with bad regulation particularly when it's badly administer inside the u.k. >> my honorable friend is absolutely right. businesses large and small are complaining about the burden of regulation. not just the burden of regular ration from europe -- regulation from europe, but more generally. and that is why we should be fighting in europe for a more flexible europe and a europe where we see regulations come off. but the view of the party opposite is sit back, do nothing and never listen to the british people or british business either.
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>> order! >> here on c-span2 we'll leave the british house of commons now as today move on to other legislative business. you've been watching prime minister's question time aired live wednesdays at 7 a.m. eastern while parliament's in session. you can see this week's question time again sunday night at 9 eastern and pacific on c-span. and or for more information go to and click on c-span series for prime minister's questions plus links to international news media and legislatures around the world. you can also watch recent video including programs dealing with other international issues. >> the greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker. this honor now beckons america, the chance to help lead the world at last out of the valley of turmoil and onto that high ground of peace that man has
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dreamed of since the dawn of civilization. >> we must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdevelop canned areas. >> this weekend on american history tv, public radio's back story with the american history guys who explore the history and traditions of presidential inaugurations live saturday morning at 11 eastern. part of three days of american history tv right through inauguration day on c-span3. >> after winning another six-year term in october, health concerns have forced venezuelan president hugo chavez to postpone his inauguration. he is in cuba recovering from a respiratory infection following cancer surgery. the u.s. ambassador to venezuela and a panel of latin american
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scholars discussed venezuela's political situation at the council of the americas. [inaudible conversations] >> ladies and gentlemen, before we get going, a quick announcement. please make sure that your cell phones and anything that beeps are turned off. we'd appreciate that very much. well, everybody, good morning. >> good morning. >> that sounds like church almost. that was pretty good. [laughter] we're very pleased that all of you have chosen to the join us on a rather gray day here in washington, and we hope that it
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won't, the conversation will be a little bit more lively in here than the weather outside. thank you again for taking some time to join us again today. ambassadors, congressmen, knowledgeable observers, all, we are pleased not just with the panel, but frankly, with the quality of the audience, too, which is a very knowledgeable and experienced group of folks who have followed venezuela for some time. so you have a very good group of folks that you're talking to, so you all have to be on your best behavior. please make sure that you are. [laughter] last thursday, january 10, venezuelan president hugo chavez was in havana rather than caracas. since december 10 when he left for cuba for a fourth round of cancer treatment, chavez has uncharacteristically remained outside the public eye. information about both his diagnosis and his prognosis has been scarce. having just reelected chavez to
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a fourth term on october 7th, the people of venezuela and the people of the hemisphere have now begun to face the prospect of a future without him. this is an important moment in hemispheric affairs, indeed, a potential waterhead. for the 20 years since he first attempted to gain the presidency by force and the 14 years he has served as president, hugo chavez has played an outsized role if hemispheric affairs. his departure from the scene whenever it occurs -- and, frankly, none of us really know when that will be given the silence of both the cuban and venezuelan governments -- it will be important implications. with that in mind, the council of the americas has sought to bring together's program as a means to understand the situation on the ground and what it may portend for venezuela and the other nations of the americas. my name is eric fans --
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farnsworth, and it's a privilege to be able to welcome all of you to what promises to be a thought-provoking conversation. and we're not just talking to those of us in the room here today, but we are also webcasting, so we have an audience via c-span and other coverage, and we thank you for tuning in as well. as all of you know, the situation in venezuela is fluid. even b without him, chavez supporters -- both domestic and foreign, including a handful of foreign leaders -- convened in caracas on thursday what for wht "the washington post" called a i sue toe -- a pseudo inauguration. for their part the opposition argues that chavez is incapacitated and that according to the venezuelan constitution that chavez himself oversaw, national assembly held -- [inaudible] is designated the acting head of the country and that new
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elections within 30 days are required. without the inauguration, they also argue the mandate of unelected vice president has expired and, thus, he has no official role. at in this point there's little consensus, obviously, on the path forward based on those two diametrically opposed views. the potential for political instability perhaps has increased, amplified by the deteriorating economic environment that chavez will also bequeath to his successor. so what happens next? are there some scenarios that are more likely than others? what are the implications for vens venezuela and also the international community, and what is the chavez legacy for the region? we've assembled a top flight panel, each of the panelists having deep experience in and knowledge of venezuela. our first panel cyst is russell dallen -- panelist is russell dallen. was is a journalist through and through having worked for a firm
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of leading publications around the world, a keen observer of the issues. he's also an effective commentator, and his views are widely sought by the press and the markets. any of you of who have followed venezuela recently have probably seen his name pop up in some of the press articles. russ is a harry suspect truman scholar which is something i like to point out whenever i can. second is charles shapiro, formerly the u.s. ambassador to venezuela. charles recently which canned a very successful tenure at a state department, and he now heads the institute of the americas in san diego with which the council of the americas is partnering next month in a program on mexico. we've hosted him several times, and we're delighted, charles, to have the opportunity to welcome you back as well. and my colleague, dr. christopher sabatini, the editor-in-chief of the journal america's quarterly with the council of the americas in the new york.
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crystals has deep experience -- chris also has deep experience with venezuelan issues. he's a widely sought-after commentator, and you've probably seen him on any number of channels. so there's get into it. russ, you've just come up to washington from venezuela. you've been on the ground, you've observed what's happened recently, and you're also following very closely the national mood. so to get us going, give us a sense of the situation right now on the ground and what we might be able to anticipate over the near term. where is this thing heading? >> lucky me to be first. that's a great question though, eric. we're in a unique situation in venezuela, and there are basically two basic themes. one is what i call the -- [inaudible] cap scenario, and based on what irwin -- [inaudible] an austrian physicist back in 1935 who fled us a -- austria and went to ireland, but he
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produced an experiment based on whether a cat was alive or dead in a box, and you didn't know, and it could be both. in this case, we don't know whether chavez is alive or dead, and that greatly affects what we're seeing last week. we haven't heard from him, as eric noted, well, in 35 days. i mean, imagine president barack obama not being in touch, not even a picture or proof of life for 35 days. it's an amazing, amazing scenario. and the quasiinauguration that we had last week on the 10th is kind of a surreal addition to that cat theory because chavez didn't even bother to call in. you know he would have been there if he could, or he would have at least sent a voicemail or or called into his favorite station. none of those things happened. so you've got that on one hand and the additional tension that there's no place for the opposition to go. they've gone to the supreme court. the supreme court -- we have a problem with labels in america. when we think of labels, we
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automatically assume that everything in that label is the way everything is across the world. sadly, in venezuela it's called the supreme court, so we think it's equal to our supreme court here with all its flaws, but if venezuela they were all appointed by chavez, so it's not exactly that they had a justice that was appointed by a liberal majority or by a conservative majority, they have a number of justices, and they were all appointed by chavez and have been wielded out through the years -- weeded out through the years if they're not loyal to the president. so you have a situation where the opposition has no place to go. at the same time as that one thesis where you have an opposition that's kind of trapped in this surreal situation, you have a second situation where because the president is gone and they've established kind of an imperial presidency in venezuela -- some would dare to call it a dictatorship, but he is elected -- at any rate, nothing gets done without president
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chavez. so you have a second scenario where you have a president that's been ill, his fourth operation, for the past 18 months. and with everything having to go through him and everything being done in reliance on what he says or only happening when he says, you have an economy that's spinning out of control. right now they have a shortage index that's hit 16% this week. last week, just to get personal, i had to go to three places just to get toilet paper. they have no costco. they did, but they nationalized that three years ago. anyway, there's no eggs, there's no milk, there is no corn flour that is the basics for the venezuelan diet. matter of fact, i had hoped that we would have audio-visual capability, but when we moved, we lost that ability. but i wanted to show you some, if you go to the latin american
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herald tribune's web site, you can see people rushing, the mad rush there is to go when a store gets something. as a matter of fact, it happens in my office. when someone finds out that a store has something, milk or eggs or whatever that they need, there's a mad rush, and all of the assistants and everybody just runs over to the store to try and get it because they go like that. so we have a shortage. and we don't have any way -- and those two -- there's no way to really resolve that yet. and so those two kind of problems could intersect for a very dangerous situation in the future. >> charles, do you anticipate that with some of these trends coming together that the transition to the extent it happens -- because, again, president chavez may very well be alive, and he may recover, he may come back. so do you sense that the transition, when it happens -- and i put it that way on
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purpose -- will it be stable, will it be smooth? what's the potential there for a little bit of some of the issues that russell was talking about to really scramble things up? >> first of all, let me start off by saying there are people in the audience here who know more about venezuela -- i'm daunted to be talking in front of this crowd. there's so many people here who know so much, so i look forward to some of the questions coming later. the question on venezuela is nobody knows what's going to happen. nobody knows the health of the president, nobody knows what tryst means -- transition means. those of us old enough remember saturday night live, and franco is still alive, is still dead. you know, what does that, what does that mean? what is quite clear is that chavez is in really dire health circumstances right now. he may come back, he may not,
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but the inauguration in absentia, the supreme court decision and i would argue the comments by the -- [inaudible] threatening the opposition late last week indicate great concern on the part of the government of venezuela of what's going to happen, how it's going to unfold, where things are going. it strikes me -- and, again, this is me looking at, i've not set food in venezuela in nine years, so i will defer to those of you who have got different views -- but that it would serve the purposes of the government of vens wail rah to have an election sooner rather than later. that they have just done very well in presidential elections and in the regional elections, that they are organized and, obviously, they've got the organizing mechanism in the
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government to help turn their voters out. that the opposition after the presidential election, i think, took a deep pret and went to the beach, and they did very poorly in the regional election. b and for them to be organized and run an election in the short term is going to be very -- has challenges. i mean, this is not in the any way putting down the opposition. that's a real challenge to get reorganized, to raise the money they need, to select a candidate and get going. and so it's going to be very difficult for them. um, i mean, so you've got this strange thing where you've got the opposition which is outraged by a whole bunch of things, but there's no international authority that's going to say a supreme court, let's accept russ' description of the supreme
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court and its independence or lack thereof, but there's no international body that's going to gain, say, a decision of a supreme court in any country of the world. i mean, that's not what they do. so the opposition, i think, is rightly frustrated. but what they need to do is take that energy and focus on getting prepared the run a presidential election at some point whether that's in a month or two months or six months. but they need to be ready to go. >> yeah. and i, you know, i'm really glad you brought into the conversation those points because russell has also touched on that, and chris is a real political science expert and has done a lot of understanding in terms of venezuela specifically. you know, one of the things we say often in politics, you can't beat something with nothing, right? and so the opposition may have problems with the way things are going forward, but what is the
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realistic alternative that they have in the current environment and to the extent that they really want to contest this, what can they do to move forward? >> well, first, let me echo what charles said. it is somewhat intimidating to be in the room with a lot of you who know and follow venezuela a lot more closely than i do. so i'm going to quote someone who actually knows venezuela as i do, and that's my 8-year-old son. [laughter] he's been, oddly -- because i've been called at all hours of the day and night checking my equal and computer constantly, he's been very obsessed with the health of chavez. the other day, actually on the 10th in the morning, he says how's that president anyway? i said, well, he's still sick, but he's going to be sworn in absentia as president. and he says why don't they just -- he says is that legal? i said, well, interpreting out to be so. he says why don't they just allow the constitution to allow a zombie to be president?
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which actually demonstrates a sort of anything can happen. his eyes lit up, and then he ma'amed what this -- imagined what this inauguration speech would be, which is i eat brains. anything really can happen. and it goes to the point of the opposition, i'm actually going to disagree a little bit with charles here about what the oas gain, say, the supreme court? it has in a place called honduras. honduras, i know i'm in the minority, and i have been on the panel, honduras was a coup in june 2009. i think, actually, we're all in a weaker state of being able to criticize what's going on in venezuela because of what happened in honduras. and it's amazing to me the secretary general jose miguel sosa when asked this time whether he should criticize or he had any concerns what was going on in venezuela, he said, no, no, no, supreme court decided. i didn't want see him saying that in june 2009.
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i saw him criticizing and calling what the supreme court of congress did a coup. >> why is that? >> why is that? good question. [laughter] um, i think we all have our theories, i'll just leave it out there. i think in part, i think, actually, the oas and democratic defense is now just too, it's become wrapped around the axle of polarization, of ideological debates. i think the one thing we can take away from this whole situation is that bullies win. as much as we believe -- i mean, chavez is nothing more than -- [speaking spanish] i mean, he just can, basically, call people out and humiliate them and bash them, and it does manage to intimidate governments and leaders and multilateral institutions. and i think that's the problem. and i think, you know, we all fear what could happen, but, you know, even if -- i'm not, i don't think the multilateral community or the united states or anyone should have called
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what happened -- [inaudible] but the fact that no one actually dared any questions about the levels of polarization in venezuela, what this meant for respect for the letter, if not certainly the spirit of the constitution, on what this meant for the potential for conflict, um, was i think very sad. and worse, this is a government that is very good -- [audio difficulty] but in terms of consistently named the supreme court violating its own procedures, and it consistently now, and, you know, if it comes to an election, let me venture a guess the constitution requires the election be held within 30 days. if they were wise, they could hold it within five, still within the letter of the constitution, keep the opposition on their heels. i think what's sad is what happened on the decision of the supreme court december 9th and 10th is that there were over
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four million people whose voices were not heard. we're not talking about, you know, the people that were sworn in only represented roughly about 55% of the people. if chavez is the people, he's only 55% of the people. and that's the problem. and the problem is, too, is they're gaming it once again. if anyone saw the declaration that was signed by the dignitaries who went to the so-called swearing-in march, whatever, the issue of what was called -- [speaking spanish] that's the declaration of caracas. [laughter] >> pretty good. >> yeah, i'm work working on it. high school spanish paid off. [laughter] but what it said was that it basically up front said that these countries would not tolerate any intervention in venezuela's sovereignty. and that -- and that they were going to prevent any coup. first of all, we know this is a common trope they use to keep
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everyone at bay. but second of all, b what they basically allowed was a violation of over 40 years of international jurisprudence. national sovereignty is now declared as being popular sovereignty or 55% of the people. and that is not the way our international human rights system and our inter-american human rights system has been built. and the fact that no one, no one dared to stand up and say, wait, this really is not -- this is out of step with where we've evolved in the last couple decades, i think, is very sad. as i say, a lot of people may agree with me here, but a lot of them didn't agree with me when i said it was a coup in honduras. we also are wrapping ourselves around who we want to support. >> yeah. and e think -- i think you've broadened it out to a hemisphere context. i want to come back to russell. you know, there's a lot of
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speculation that chavezmo requires chavez, and the question would be is this something that you would agree with, or is the revolution, call it whatever you would like, is that sustainable even if president chavez eventually does not come back to venezuela, does not reassert his authority as president? have the institutions of venezuela been changed to this point that there's really no going back, or how would you see that type of scenario unfold? >> well, a great question because -- b it's a great question because, and we have a history of that in latin america, obviously, with peron and around gene teen that which is still under that flag today. so the question is whether the institutions and the way that the chavez government has dominated and, if you will, corrupted the independence of the institutions will last past chavez. and in the short term, it's
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clear that they will. even if we went to an election f they declare chavez dies tomorrow -- which there's some rumor that they would do that actually going around now -- but if chavez were to be declared dead and they called an election within 30 days and the opposition won beating a sympathy vote for the chavez candidate which is difficult after what we saw on december 16th in the governor elections that we just talked about, chavez has 20 of the 23 governors. eleven of those 20 governors that were won by the chavez party are former military officials including four ministers of defense who are now governors of their respective states. several of them are on the office of the foreign assets control drug kingpin list payoff their or work with the farc. so we have a situation where people are in control of things so that even if henry --
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was elected president in this election, he's the head of the opposition. >> he's the head of the opposition who ran against ca vez who got to 45% to the 55% we're talking about, even if he was to win, he still but institutions -- he still would have institutions that are controlled by the chavez government including the supreme court, including the legislature or which is dominated by the chavez government party and if every other institution through and through including pay da vase saw because all the opposition workers that struck in 2002 and 2003 were dismissed. so we have a situation where chavezmo will go on just because the nature of the tail of the beast is so rooted in all the institutions that were, indeed, created and restructured by chavez. >> but at some point that
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momentum actually runs its course unless there's something beyond an individual to sustain it like an idea or a consciousness of some, in some way. charles, up ambassador during a time -- you were ambassador during a time when this began to take root in venezuela. is this whole idea of a new society, a revolutionary or approach, call it again what you will, but is that really rooted at this point in the vends wail land consciousness, or is it a matter of politically the institutions have been reformed? because if that's the case, they can presumably change back or not, but that's a political issue, not more of a social issue. give us a sense of how that plays out. >> that's a great question. what russ is talking about b is inertia of motion. i mean, you've got this underway and moving ahead and how long will it go without the charismatic, messianic figure of hugo chavez? and a lot of people if this room have written about that, and i don't know how you measure that.
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but i do know this, and that is that chavez did get 55 president of the -- 55% of the vote. the p opposition has not claimed that that vote was not fair. i mean, let's assume, you know, just like any election that there's something. there were no international observers, but, okay, basically i think that reflects the huge popularity of hugo chavez. i mean, this is an extraordinary polarized society. i don't think, i mean, you know, we've just gone through a polarizing election in this country. i've never seen the degree of fervor on both sides as i have seen in veps wail la. venezuela. and the opposition, the non-chavezmo forces have got a
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huge challenge. how do they get, how do you get a majority of the vote just like any opposition party in the world? many how do you appeal to people -- how do you appeal to people who are persuadable in. >> and the most recent elections in december they actually lost -- >> yes. >> -- lost governorships. so even from the presidential elections in october. >> right. so, i mean, that's -- i mean, i don't want to go through the economic history of venezuela. i mean, i'll be glad to afterwards -- [laughter] if anybody really wants to know. [laughter] but the real issue is for that percentage of the population which felt rightly or wrongly excluded, and chavez became emblematic, somehow was able to communicate that he represented those people.
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he's hugely popular, he's able to hit that and to get people to turn out for him. okay. now, will that continue without chavez? i mean, nicholas moduro, the anointed, appointed successor to chavez, is not charismatic. i guess you can develop charisma, but, i mean, so far you don't see evidence of that. he is the guy who's opinion anointed by chavez, so that carry on for one election? two elections? no elections? and that's the the issue that people are debating and arguing and trying to calculate, and that's why if one were the op cig -- and i am not -- the opposition has to figure out how do you come up, how do you appeal, how do you get those votes? and i think rodonsky did an extraordinary job campaigning
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across the country, going into barrios and areas where the opposition had been warned not to go, you know? at some risk to himself. did better tan the opposition -- than the opposition has done in a presidential election. i mean, made a herculean effort and got 45% of the vote. that's fabulous. 45% is not a majority though. that doesn't win an election. >> yeah. yeah, no, thank you for clarifying that. i think it's a daunting task for anybody, anybody who wants to be leader of a country, particularly in these circumstances for the opposition of what it would take to do that. well, we've talked a lot about the opposition. let's talk a little bit about the c health care avi -- chavista movement. are there others, perhaps, who may once president ca vez is no
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longer able to return who may also try to assert their own authority? how do you see that play? >> first, let me say about the elections, yes, chavez won 55%. they were, um, free elections, i wouldn't say they were fair. by the high water mark of election observation standards, the venezuelan elections would never have held up. let's say the 2000 elections in mexico or the 2000 elections in peru, the sorts of blatant patronage and coercion of voters and little, subtle games would not have passed muster in the international election observation community. again, tsa an indication of how much the -- that's an indication of how much the standards have sunk. we need to accept it, but i think we need to also recognize finish you know, that is also part of the problem. yes, the opposition has to unify, yes, it has to address the needs of the poor, but it also having the powers of incumbency are particularly powerful in venezuela as opposed
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to other places where there are much greater controls. i mean, public spending increased by 20% in 2012, and that wasn't just for health care expenditures. the, on the issue of chavez, russ made the comment that it's kind of like peron. i often disagree on that point in the sense that -- well, i agree in the sense that argentina after peron was permanently changed. there's no going back. i disagree in the sense that what made peron fundamentally difficult is he knew how the -- how to build institutions. he created through a whole series of imports of industrialization organizations and corporatist groups, he created the -- [speaking spanish] chavez has done none of that. he's done none of that. attempts to intellectualize chavez have sort of semi democratic regime i think sort
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of missed the mark. this is really, basically, government by fiat, by permized fiat -- personalized fiat. and he came to power in the wake of the collapse of a regime and basically went about completely destroying even his own constitution. he's not an institution builder. the psuv is really a party in name only. it is a coalition of groups held together fringe leftist parties to some unions, to businesses, to military officers, to corrupt criminal groups. there's no coherence or even organic structure to it. now, will this sort of just disappear or evaporate? i think it's difficult. i don't think it will. i mean, i think, again,chavismo will remain as a mystic time. certainly, there were pretty heady times in venezuela. basically, oil went from -- venezuelan crude went from about $10 to $100. there's a trillion dollar windfall by most counts that
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people much like peron during the post-world war ii when commodities had boomed as the heady days of chavez. it will be difficult to expunge. but, you know, you're looking at a lot of fractions. now, i don't think -- i think a lot of people are believing that that -- [inaudible] are already at loggerheads. i don't think that's the case. these guys, they know today either hang separately, or they hang together. and i think it's difficult to believe that they are going to already start to fragment when there's so much on the table and there's so much at stake. so i think people are already trying to figure out what these fractions are. it's difficult. now, the real test will come, and i don't think it's a jump to say that should chavismo win a new election if it's called, then it has to face a difficult tasks. it needs to devalue, pacing inflation of -- facing inflation of 20% thanks to the patronage
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of last year, then your going to see a lot of the chickens come home to roost, and then you'll start to see it break apart. basically, peron was forceed to engage in an austerity package around 1952 til '55, and that's what, basically, got peron kicked out. and after he died you begin to see that internal battle. then you'll start to see that fraction happen. >> that's a perfect segway, because i want to bring it back to russell for an economic e question. we talked about politics, we haven't talked a lot about the economy, although we've alluded to various aspects. and so let me ask you the take off your journalist hat, russell, and put on your markets hat and ask you a simple question; is venezuela a buy, a sell or a hold? [laughter] >> well, i think what we're going to see in the short term is a great deal of turmoil. there's a lot of uncertainty -- >> from the market's perspective? >> yeah. and capitalism flees, or capital
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flees uncertainty. right now you have uncertainty in venezuela because nobody knows what's going to happen. nobody even knows if venezuela is alive or dead, although we did hear from his brother yesterday that he's not in a coma, so that was really helpful. [laughter] we thought he was either in a coma or on life support. so now we know he's not in a coma. other really insightful information we've gotten from the regime is that he's in a stationary situation. not stable, a stationary situation. >> we're all stationary. >> yeah. [laughter] and that his treatment was being assimilated. they're still used that one. his -- using that one. his treatment is being assimilated. so we haven't had any insight into whether chavez is going to make it or not. i mean, the prospects are probably that he's not. and we thought that the regime or the government would call elections sooner rather than later, before the economic
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crisis that we're talking about started to happen. but now they're starting to bite. for example, last week an institution which i'm familiar with, i won't say which, traded dollars into bolivars at 8 and a quarter -- 18 and a quarter on the black market, 18.25. the official government rate is 4.3. to buy dollars, it costs you 18 bolivars whereas if you bought them from the government, you can buy them at 4.3, but the government's not providing them to anybody except friends of chavez or special people. and even in their secondary market that they've provided, they're only producing 15 million a day when the demand is close to 100 million a day, and that's what it was before they shut down the parallel market in may of 2010. so you have a currency that is -- and, actually, you know, the trade was at 18, but there are actually no dollars available. so that's a what's causing more of the shortagings.
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it's not so much that venezuelans can get used to anything and, you know, you kind of need toilet paper, you kind of need flour, and you're going to need certain things that you're going to have to pay for and bite the bullet and cut elsewhere. the problem is there are no dollars, so suppliers can't order things and even bring them in. so there's -- and until someone takes the helm, you've got this rudderless state that's being run, and this is sticking in people's throats in venezuela, from cuba. now, imagine the fuss among latin americans if a foreign, you know, how they would cry about foreign interference if it was the united states. if chavez was in the united states, and we were holding him, and nobody's seen or talked or heard from him for going on 40 days, and imagine the cries around, about american
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empirallism that we would hear. but we have that exact situation, and this time it's not the u.s. it's actually cuba. so we haven't really talked about that, and they're kind of an unknown factor in all of this, and in an economic way. >> uh-huh. charles, with that in mind if you were back in the state department, and we know you're not, so -- what would you be advising folks to do in terms of the u.s. government? i mean, how do you -- or foreign governments, for that matter, in terms of what are some positive things that could be done to advance the issues in a fave bl way -- favorable way? and note how i'm putting it in ambiguous terms that you can translate according to your own thoughts. but what could or what should we be doing in the international community? >> that was actually next on my list of things i was going to
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raise it and sort of go through the checklist. first of all, i do not speak for the u.s. government. my views are my own and not theirs. and i am a proponent of talking to people. i am not a proponent that talking to someone is a favor that you bestow in terms of international relations. talking is what you do. it's what we did with the chinese and the russians in the height of the cold war. and so i think we're doing the right thing having low-level contacts, some through official channels, official diplomatic channels and some apparently offline, and i think that is -- [audio difficulty] the spokesman on friday, you know, was extraordinarily cautious, maybe too cautious for my taste. but, in fact, i do not think the united states should become a
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foil for nicholas moduro and -- [inaudible] and chavismo. i think it serves our purposes not to become a player in internal venezuelan politics. and the way to do that is by being real cautious which is what we're doing publicly while making contact privately. okay. so now let's go a little bit further. the influence of chavez and chavismo -- i'm sorry, let me back up. the ore thing that i think has been extraordinary is the united states moving away from depending on a supply of venezuelan oil. i'm not sure it was intentional, but it certainly has happened thanks to our oil companies that have, you know, are producing
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more oil than ever and energy from other sources both domestically and from other places, and i think that's great. i think we import around a million barrels of oil a day from venezuela. i would -- this is me speaking, and i'm not being paid by anybody -- boy, i sure would love to see a million barrels a day coming down a pipeline from alberta to houston. won't that be neat? let's see, a million and a million, ah, is that coincidence? i think that would be terrific. so, i mean, i remember well threats by the governor of venezuela, you know, not a single drop of oil will go to the united states. great. and i think what we need to do is ree move that -- remove that over our economy, and we have done it, and we should continue to do so. >> it's my understanding, this is just a question of fact, but it's my understanding that the only country that's paying rack rate for venezuelan crude is
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really the united states, and basically everybody else is getting it at discounted rates or on terms that are more favorable, is that -- >> there are people in the audience who know more about this than me. i don't know who's paying what for what. >> okay. >> so that. um, venezuela is subsidizing cuba and the cuban economy at the rate of $4 billion a year out of $60 billion economy. if i were the cubans, i sure would like that to continue, and i would do everything i could to get that to continue. i think the influence of venezuela and toover chavismo is waning. it hit a high water mark and is receding, and i think that serves, certainly, the purposes of the united states. and i think that's fine. and if i were the people -- listen, i don't, i don't blame the countries that are receiving subsidized oil shipments from venezuela. i would love for somebody to
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subsidize the things i need to buy. you know, that's in their own self-interest. but they need to be thinking about what's going to happen. because let's go back. if you take some of the data that russ and chris have talked about on the economy and you are the next, you are the government of venezuela, i mean, the easiest places to cut back are in the oil you're giving away. and so if i'm the recipient of that oil, i'd be worried right now. i mean, that's just, you know, in the self-interest of the government of venezuela, if you've got a deficit, you know, stop giving oil away. stop subsidizing sales to people. that would be a lodge cl thing -- logical thing to do. and if you had a government that was not as idealogically motivated as the current government, if you had a chavista government not as
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idealogically motivated as the current government, that would be a real, logical thing for them to do. >> yeah. thank you for those comments. before i go to chris for the last question this round, i want to mention that after that we'll be going to the audience for some of your questions. we'll have circumstance rating microphones, so you can be thinking about the questions. hopefully, the certification to this point has been sufficiently provocative that you'll have a number of questions, and we can go into the procedure for doing that. but just to give you a heads up that that's coming shortly. chris, back to you for really a continuation of where charles left his comments. but i want to press it just a little bit further. you've talked about the democracy side. charles also mentioned that he doesn't think the united states would want to provide a foil for anybody in venezuela which is, frankly, something i agree with. but the two might necessarily be consistent if you're trying to promote democracy and yet keep the united states out of it at least publicly and maybe privately as well -- which i think are both very, very
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laudable goals and yet at the same time potentially very conflicting goals. i never promised you an easy question, but how do you begin to think through some of those issues, and are there other partners maybe outside the united states or outside the region that might be able to be helpful in just thinking through some of these very complicated matters? >> um, first of all, on the rack rate for oil, cuba's paying the rack rate. they've got very expensive doctors. [laughter] the -- that's why our health care plans don't work there. the second on this point, you know, i think the announcement that the u.s. is having negotiations and discussions with venezuela is good. i was, you know, i think sort of announcing it now, i realize it came finish -- >> but it was in november. it's just come out now. >> i know, a shame it comes out now because, you know, no one's going to stray too far from chavez's shadow. so the timing was a little bit odd. not necessarily the state department's fault.
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i agree they should be talking about it. i think people are going to anytime they're not talking to the government. so that indicates a stickiness of that situation. you know, i'll be honest, i think it's -- i'm saddened to see the united states isn't speaking out not in defense of, um, not in a sense of hyper bollic sense of a coup, but not actually saying something of concern -- again, you can sort of gently express concern or raise concerns about polarization, the potential for conflict, following processes. and i understand. i mean, i think you don't want to turn yourself into becoming a foil for the chavistsa, but no one's standing up. brazil, obviously, made some very clumsy statements, but it didn't attend the so-called inauguration which i guess was a little bit -- i assume the united states is quietly trying
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to get other countries. i think it's hoping. i think it's a lost hope -- >> [inaudible] >> yeah, to speak out. but, you know, it's time for someone to put on the pants and stand up and say, you know, we're watching this, and we are concerned. we hope that it's resolved in an institutional manner. no one's doing it. >> listen, i would argue that that's the role of the people in this room, this that's the -- that's the role of the council of americas, human rights watch and other people. i mean, i found out -- i found it interesting that, i guess i don't monitor all the media around the world, but that el paez in an editorial said this was a scandalous supreme court decision. he used the word "scandalous" that everybody else seems to back away. you, the supreme court. the supreme court of a country.
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that's where nongovernmental voices can speak out stronger than businesses that have their business to be concerned about and countries that have their own or more narrow hi-defined -- narrowly-defined national interests to be concerned about. >> yeah, i agree. although i do think there's something to be said for sort of the prestige of diplomatic sort of expression. and friends of venezuela even, friends of the venezuelan constitution could speak out and say something. you know, colombia, brazil -- >> there was a group, friends of venezuela, in the u.s. congress which -- >> didn't go so far. >> where are they now? >> yeah. well, most of them are not in congress anymore. i mean, with the passage of time. >> but not for that reason. >> but not for that reason. and, um, you know, they never said anything at all to be taken
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as critical of the government of venezuela. >> yeah. >> and i think that's an important thing to remember. you know, to get people to speak out when you've got your own national interests to follow, you know, the united states -- just the way it works, if the united states whispers something here, it becomes a roar in venezuela. there's a magnifying impact. which the government of venezuela, of course, uses. >> yeah. >> and likes to do that. they are, in fact, the magnifier. >> that's it. >> you're good? >> i'm good. >> well -- [inaudible conversations] >> be am i allowed, are we allowed to talk -- >> i don't see why not. >> i have a lot of additional questions, but i know all of you do too. this has been, from my perspective, this is a very interesting conversation, and a lot of things we could continue to explore, but let's see what's on all of your minds. we have circulating microphones, so what i'd like you to do is
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once you've been identified, i'd like you to wait for the microphone and then also identify yourself by name and organization, and if the question is directed to a particular panelist, please, identify that person or direct it at that panelist. i really want to insist that these are questions, not statements or or comments. so, please, limit yourself to questions, and we'll go right here, please. we have right here. >> thank you. i'm ed -- [inaudible] i'm a retired usaid officer currently working in honduras for the state d.. >> is the microphone on? can you hear? it is? okay, thank you. >> be i have a question about the economic impact of a change of government. if the opposition takes over, presumably these deals for the sub si itizeing oil -- subsidized oil will be modified or or come to an end, and i'm wondering what we see as the economic impact on those countries where the oil stops.
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and also with regard to the relationship between cuba and veps wail la, i saw a comment the other day about the possibility of cuba withdrawing all of its medical personnel, for example, in the venezuelan health system collapsing. there may be ore impacts as well. >> thank you, ed. we're going to start this in reverse order. i'm going to start or with chris if you'd like to -- >> i think the wisest thing the opposition can do is send a signal to cuba and to the allies that the oil will not be cut off. you've got thousands of cuban doctors, but sports trainer -- i have no idea what that means -- [laughter] guys with sweat panels, whistles -- sweat pants, whistles running around. >> sports trainers. >> agents. and you're not going to be able to untang m them from the institutions of the venezuelan government like that. i think the best thing you can do is allow the oil to continue. you don't want to pick a fight from cuba. and supposedly there have been signals sent that we're not going to mess with that right now.
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and the other stuff has to maintain, because it will have a huge impact. supposedly the dominican republican gets between 30 and 35 million barrels a day. cuba gets -- [inaudible] i think it has to remain. and i just don't think you can untangle that anytime soon. it's a drain on the economy. and, quite frankly, i don't know why he wants the job. for the reasons -- [laughter] i feel like, you know, lindsay lohan's therapist. i just don't know why you'd want it. [laughter] people are competing for it. but it's not going to be an easy job. the next year whoever occupies -- [inaudible] is going to have a very difficult set of economic decisions to make. >> what about other countries in the region besides cuba, charles, do you have a view on that or, chris, an additional thought? >> [inaudible] >> yeah. >> look, i think i wouldn't quite go so far as chris, but i
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assume there are contracts signed and that those contracts would be followed to the expiration of the contracts. maybe there aren't contracts. somebody here might know better than i do. but, for example, that the oil to the dr throughal baa or or -- [inaudible] has got -- you know, i'd assume there's some sort of agreement. >> i wouldn't be so sure. >> but, you know, i would go along with that until those agreements actually expire. but what it does is it puts them in the same fix they were in before, right? you know, it's the problem of cutting off subsidies anywhere, and those countries are going to have to scramble and figure out what to do. the international energy market's trying to shift around, and i think that could be to the benefit of some of these countries. but for some of them the problem is they don't have enough money to pay for it. >> yeah, very good. russell, did you have a comment on that or no? >> i guess i should say
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something about how this breaks down. as you kind of pointed out in terms of venezuela production is in question, but let's use what opec says it's about 2.7 million barrels a day. it hasn't really gone up, it's actually gone down over the last ten years despite plans that it should be doing -- going up. they fired all the workers and rehired a bunch of political loyalists, and then they -- [inaudible] exxon and conoco. amazingly, the coke brother had a -- the koch brothers had a plan there as well that they'd invested a billion dollars in, and chavez took that a couple of years ago as well. so we have about a million barrels, between 700 and a million going to the u.s. every day making them our fourth or fifth largest supplier of oil to the u.s. and the important thing that was just pointed out is we're really
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the only guy that's paying for their oil. and let me explain that ate will bit more. so we're subsidizing venezuela and hugo chavez. so we have an important voice because we're the money. china is also giving them -- and chavez, one of his policies to get away from the u.s. and shipping oil to the u.s. and this started when ambassador shapiro was ambassador was to increase shipments to china. china didn't have the structure for the oil of venezuela, but they have built it now, and they have plant that should come online b in 2014 that is going to take 800,000 barrels a day. but right now china has given venezuela as a loan against future receivables of oil of $40 billion, basically, that gets paid off and then new -- [inaudible] are made. they're getting it at a discount. one of the wikileaks, ambassador shapiro probably has better access to the information --
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>> nope. [laughter] >> but one of the reports from venezuela was that they were paying as low as $20 a barrel -- in the chinese? >> the chinese, yeah, were paying under this deal. the government has denied that, and at any rate, the u.s -- it makes the u.s. the main guy who's paying cash for the oil it receives. the other 400-600,000 barrels are going -- well, 100,000 barrels a day are going to cuba free. talk about -- they've shipped doctors over. the dental program has basically gutted, a lot of those doctors are now practicing in the u.s. because they slipped away as soon as they were able to or into other latin american cups. so there weren't many doctors left. but it's also a labeling problem because when we talk about doctors, they, um, they're not -- they didn't go to four years of medical school. they have, basically, emts. and that's who's, basically, staffing nurses and equivalent
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of what we call emts, emergency medical technicians, are staffing these barrio stations, and all they have of is aspirin, a few other, you know, basic things. so it's a kind of deceptive label that we use. so that's what i wanted to clarify. >> no, thank you. there was a question right here, and then we've got two, i think three -- we've got a bunch, so let's go over here, please. thanks. >> good morning, members of the board and ladies and gentlemen. ambassador, one thing we know for sure is that the revolution of chavez is a failure. knowing that, i would like to know your opinion of the devaluation of the currencies of the bolivar and in their future, possibly within the next 12 months. >> look, i mean, russ is the guy who can give you the economic data. i can't. economists say, you know, if you
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could get all the economists in the room, economists say it's necessary. but this is a government that you've seen not do what economists say is necessary. so will they do it? how do you do it, at what point? they've devalued in the past, they've changed from the bolivar to the bolivar fuerte, the new bolivar that was going to stop inflation from taking place, and inflation, of course, can't -- comets. >> i think they're going to mint a trillion dollar coin. [laughter] >> we've already talked about that one. >> they've got enough of platinum. anyway, i don't know the answer -- >> that's, actually, a very pertinent question e, and a lot of observers of venezuela have said there won't be an alternative, but the question then becomes one of timing. russell, what are your thoughts on that? >> recently, we had expected the devaluation to take place as they often do in the portion of the year of after christmas and between the start of the new
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year while everybody was still recovering from their new year's celebrations. it's the most effective time to quietly slip it in because nobody's reading the papers as much. they can't, they didn't do it because they're back in election mode which is dangerous for the economy because we're back in a situation where potentially the government's going to have to campaign again where we've had this huge bump in spending over the last year to try and campaign again to get moduro elected. i should point out something, also, that chris pointed out about the elections being free and fair. while they may have been free, there were a lot of things. one of the tricks i should point out before i go into exactly what i wanted to say is, for example, they have a picture on the ballot, and you push the picture. there were pictures of the opposition candidate, but at the last minute the government switched. not the government, those parties that had said they were going to support him switched to someone else. so if people voted on the
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picture of him thinking you were voting for him, you actually ended up going in some cases for another candidate or in some case cans for to vote and no candidate at all. and there were, it was -- it happened in this six different pictures on the ballot. so it was quite confusing. number one. but number two, the government as part of that 20% bump in spending that we saw last year, they're giving away free housing. mitt romney, if mitt romney had offered me a free house, he would have had my vote. >> if i think he had your vote anyway. >> yeah, well -- [laughter] actually, so what's happened is the government has promised people houses, they're building houses, they go on tv every day and give houses to people, and so people think it's their turn next, and their going to win the lottery, and, you know, my turn is coming. so they've offered to buy people houses. it's called mission vivienda. so they've kind of bought those votes. they give you a contract that
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your house is going to be ready in april 2014, here's what it looks like, here's our model house. of course, if op opposition come in power, you're not going to get your house. we're very sorry. but if you vote for chavez, you'll get your house. and those people who already have houses, they kind of escort them to the polls, and they watch them. we're watching you. if you don't vote for chavez, you're going to lose your house. because you don't own it, you just get to occupy it. so that's the kind of thing that we're talking about in terms of free and fair elections. >> but you wouldn't anticipate, just going back to the question, you wouldn't anticipate a devalue devaluation at least until the whole leadership issue is resolved, no? >> well, no one's will this to make a decision right now. when chavez came back it was one of the questions they put to him, and he said no. because moduro doesn't want to be that guy who just made your money worth less even though the black market is already, you
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know, four times, almost five times what the official rate is, nobody wants to be that guy that makes such an unpopular economic adjustment. >> yeah. good point. there was a question here, please. yes. >> gustavo -- [inaudible] i'm venezuelan geologist, and i sense with the exception of chris chris sabatini, i sense a high level of detachment in the panel concerning what is going on in venezuela. which i find very tragic. what is going on in venezuela is not only going on in venezuela, it's going on in the americas, and i -- if you don't take it like that, you are probably prone to laugh the whole thing off. and i would find that very tragic. whereas the chavismo is very well organized as we could see
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from the speeches made by three presidents in caracas; morales and ortega and muhika, especially ortega in our own country there to call us pieces of meat, vultures, whatever. when a patriot by the venezuelans, he insulted venezuelans in venezuela. so there is an organized effort in the americas to attack, ultimately, not venezuela, the united states which they see as the last bastion of democracy in the hemisphere. and if we cannot see that coming, we are in bad shape. >> well, thank you. let me ask chris and charles to, perhaps, respond to that. what -- let me put it -- >> i was the one who -- >> no, i know --
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[inaudible conversations] [laughter] >> this is a diversity of views right here. but let me put it slightly differently. what's the chavez legacy in the region? we really haven't talked about that, but we've mentioned -- or the questioner just mentioned three leaders, and perhaps others could be mentioned as well. but what's the legacy of chavismo in the region? is this a region-wide movement targeting the united states that sustains for longer period of time as a strategic threat? maybe we could even put it that way, in the context of the united states. it's a question. >> i think, first of all, chavez's stock has sunk. he's not where he was, say, in 2005. i think people have begun to see that less as a model, and we're seeing -- it's interesting, too, sort of the chavis, the as and their lobbyists talk about the benefit of a finish. finish -- model. so i think chavez's stock has
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sunk in the region, but it's not -- we shouldn't diminish it. his capacity, again, to destroy institutions and not just in his own country, but regionally. the inter-american human rights commission, the oas, you know, the creation of sort of let's say, um, institutionally-challenged regional associates, to put it in politically correct terms. like selac are, is really has served at the very least to sort of confound and confuse sort of what had been very well established practices and ways of resolving not just internal conflicts of issues of human rights, but also intraregional conflicts. and those have been completely, you know, just one example. [speaking spanish] to talk about the so-called expansion of u.s. presence in colombia when there was good evidence of farc camps in
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ecuador, and allegations of connections between the venezuelan government and the farc. and somehow the u.s. presence in colombia becomes a topic of the meeting. something's definitely can wrong. definitely wrong. i think i'm going to probably offend some people, but i do that a lot. what's happened is the attraction isn't as powerful as it was, but don't underestimate the power of baffoon ri, and don't underestimate the power of sort of doing the things as you mentioned, gustavo, standing up and denouncing the united states. just ridiculous. but it has a certain amount of purchase, and it has and it demonstrates that people don't, do not care as much about institutions in the way they used to. and that's powerful. i don't think you're going to want, you're not going to see a wave of chavista candidates sweeping across the region as we feared in 2005. but i do think that mark is going to remain and remain very much of i wouldn't say a veto
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power, but a very try dent, powerful, popular movement in the region. >> charles, a quick comment? >> i have no quick comments, only long ones. [laughter] but a couple things. i mean, i agree with chris that chavismo has hit a high water mark and has receded. >> yeah. >> and, please, i don't mean to project detachment about what's going on in the venezuela, but at the end of the day it's veps wail lands who -- venezuelans who are going to resolve the issues, not outsiders. we can have some impact on it, i suppose, but at the end of the day, it's venezuelans who are going to resolve that. so the issue is how do you take that anger and fury that you feel, and i don't want to mischaracterize you, but how do people who are opposed to chavez take that and channel it into a way that is going to change the situation in vens wail rah? -- venezuela? chavez and castro and the
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sainted -- [inaudible] i mean, they touch a chord in the latin america that is there. b but what i think is in the last five, ten years is going to touch a much, has touched a bigger chord and is much more important is which countries are growing economically. where's poverty dropping in latin america? and if you, if you do a overlay of the map of latin america and the caribbean, between which countries have investment, are investment grade and which countries follow sound economic policy, i mean, it's a complete overlap. it's a one for one correlation. and so people have to be looking and say, oh, my gosh. look at what's happening in brazil and peru with left-of-center governments, chile with a right-of-center
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government. you know, mexico is on the verge of a huge takeoff. and so do you want to be stuck arguing about these issues of the past and looking for charismatic leaders, the same ones -- some are less charismatic than others, the ones who gathered in caracas, or do you want to figure out how to move your countries and your political system and your economic system forward? and i think that's the real issue. and i think that's where it serbs the united states to be playing -- it serves the united states to be playing in that field n that argument. >> well said. i know chris mentioned a number of institutional questions with regard to democracy, so i have to bring jose miguel into the conversation. there's a question right up here. and i know we're getting a little bit pressed for time here, so we want to make sure we end on time in deference to all of our viewers abroad. >> thank you very much. -- [inaudible] human rights watch. chris, i have a question for you
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about foreign policy but not the bilateral relations with venezuela. first of all, i'm not sure whether during the obama administration we have seen human rights democracy, a real component to other region. in the middle east and maybe africa and asia the component is pretty clear. for latin america i don't see their strategy. i don't see the relevance. now, you have mentioned several times the oas. the reason why, one of the reasons why secretary general sosa explained that he has no role in venezuela or, you know, in similar countries in latin america, crisis like this is because, you know, he's just a servant, an employee of an organization that if nobody step
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in, you know, nothing happened. do you expect during the new obama term a different approach with regard to the oar? we understand that everything we do from here toward caracas could be, could backfire, you know? but in the context of the oas where there's collective -- [inaudible] to preserve free speech, fundamental principles of separation of powers, given the situation in venezuela are you, are you expecting something different for these new four years, the term of the administration of president obama? >> see, this is the real reason why i called on jose miguel because he just articulated a question that i couldn't quite articulate but was precisely -- >> let me answer as bluntly and
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quickly as possible, and i'll invite my panelists to join in. first of all, the oas is a victim, and jose -- [inaudible] sosa is the beneficiary of the oas' growing irrelevance. the oas has declined in stature and importance, and jose miguel has been less open to observation and criticism because it's becoming less and less relevant. i think it's difficult. i honestly don't know how you turn that corner to make the oas much more -- i do think giving much more -- to take the case of the american human rights commission which is something that we're working on as america's quarterly, i think that could be a test case for demonstrating, you know, the only thing that really works in the oas and could sort of, hope any, reinject -- and also an opportunity for the obama administration to quietly, behind the scenes, make common cause with countries that don't want to see that thing denude.
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but i think overall the oas is sort of suffering from a certain amount of problems, and i don't think -- i don't think often sort of the try den si with which some sort of people attack the oas often helps. someone did an analysis recently or a couple months ago of the language used by chavez to attack the oas and the language used by right-wing republicans in congress to attack the oas, and they're strikingly similar. [laughter] as you could imagine. so, you know, in one case the oas is an instrument of the u.s. imperialists, in the other it's an instrument of leftist imperialists. but i do think you're right. the u.s. has not sort of really engaged a number of human rights issues. i think if it really wanted to engage, it could sort of flexiblize the embargo on cuba to engage in the process of change that's already going on in cuba. and that would be an easy lift, actually. and i think in other areas, you
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know, it sort of went the other direction. the problem was i think it got a little gun shy because of the loss of political capital, the result of the years of the bush administration, early years of the bush administration when some people sort of tried to politicize human rights questions, and i think the mantra became when the obama administration came in, oh, we cannot politicize them, we need to stand back, and i think there's a risk that they've gone too far. and it's not just in venezuela. i think it's across the board, and i don't think, you know, they've really sort of found that middle ground yet. i hope they can. i think there's plenty of areas where they can, and i think there's a crying need for it for people in the region. because when they don't, let's take the case of venezuela, there are 4.5 million voters who aren't getting represented somewhere, somewhere. >> well, on that very happy and optimistic note, i know there are many additional questions, and i've seen you. we simply don't have time to get to you, so i apologize to you for that. but i think that the
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conversation here has been fantastic. it's been broad, diverse, we've covered a lot of territory. i know we didn't answer all questions, but the fact of the matter is that's good, because what's the old vaudeville phrase, you always want to leave them wanting more. presumably, we've done that. ladies and gentlemen, would you, please, join me in thanking our panelists for their -- [applause] >> we're covering two events today on reducing gun violence. at 11:45 eastern, president obama unveils his plan at a gathering of u.s. mayors and gun safety groups. and at 2 the house democratic steering and policy committee looks at the problem of gun violation. philadelphia mayor michael nutter and the superintendent of schools in newtown, connecticut. you can see both events live on c-span and ..
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>> ben bernanke called on congress to raise the debt ceiling. he said the u.s. can avoid defaulting on its day. the dean and the university's ford school of public policy moderates this discussion. this is just over an hour. >> thank you very much. it is also my great pleasure to welcome all of you here today, and on the half of the gerald r.
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to ford school of public policy, the university of michigan is extremely honored to welcome the honorable ben bernanke, chairman of the board of governors of the federal reserve system. today's conversation is the latest in a series of distinguished lectures, "policy talks @ the ford school." we are so pleased that susan white could introduce today's event and we're also very pleased to have president mary sue coleman with us today, as was regions american nelson and power, who were already mentioned to you. we also have several of the university executive officers and deans. and i would like to welcome all of them to thank them for joining us today. while it's an honor and truly a personal pleasure for me to introduce our special guest, as the central bank of the united states, the feds charged about a healthy economy and a stable financial system. this is a complex and critically
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important mission, and that makes its person added some one of if not the most important economic policymakers worldwide. chairman ben bernanke was first appointed fed chair in 2006, india served in that role during the most challenging period for monetary and financial holy see since the great depression. the financial crisis, the great recession, very slow recovery with consistently high unemployment, evolving global challenges, and some very contentious situations between congress and administration. chairman bernanke was uniquely prepared for this extremely complicated role. as a highly respected economist, he taught at harvard, and at stanford to get our research as a fed governor and chaired the president council of economic advisers. he's an expert on the role of central banks, and he's renowned
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for his research on policy during the great depression, specifically how the fed could have handled things better. in fact, in 2000, he wrote a paper entitled a crash course for central bankers, which was published in foreign policy. he has a deep and long-standing commitment for education, and i know he recently took time out to do a town hall meeting for k-12 teachers. and so i'm particularly please today that joining us in the audience is an advanced placement economics class from chelsea high school. a special welcome to you. we're delighted to have you with us. a word about our format. for the first portion of our time, dr. bernanke will join me here on the stage in a conversation about a number of economic issues. for the rest of the time he has graciously agreed to take questions from the audience. and so around 4:30 our staff will be coming through the aisle to collect question cards from you. those of you who are watching
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online or even those of you in the audience are welcome to tweet your questions to us as well, using #fordschoolbernanke. professors kathryn dominguez and justin wolfers will collect question, along with two of our graduate students, david allen and curtis smith. and now it is my great pleasure and honor to welcome to the stage chairman ben bernanke. [applause] >> susan, before we get started i wanted to just take a minute to remember ned grimly, who taught here and -- [applause] more than 20 years, and was one of the first deans, not the first fema of the policy school here. i knew him as a member of the
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board of governors, federal reserve in washington. a terrific college. is one of the first people to figure out the subprime issue. as you probably know. and it was a great loss when he passed just a few years ago so i just wanted to say that, and to thank you for inviting me here to michigan. >> well, thank you very much. we are divided to have your but also for your special words about ned who, has played such an important role in the development, we are delighted to have you recognize that. perhaps a good place for us to start our conversation is with something i'm sure many in our audience have been paying close attention in recent weeks, and that is the fiscal cliff. i actually that is a term that you are credited with popularizing last february, uncertainty about fiscal policy is one of the real concerns that a slowing economic -- slowing
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economic growth. well, a deal was struck recently. what are your views of the outcome? >> welcome when you think about fiscal policy there's a whole lot of issues. i think the two big issues right now that we need to think about, first is the long run sustainability of our debt. at the congressional budget office, a lot of other experts have shown, if there's no change over the next couple of decades, deficits will rise, debt-to-gdp ratio's will rise, and our debt will become unsustainable. so a very, very important objective for policy is to find a plan to bring the federal budget under control over the next few decades. the second issue though, which in some ways seems contradictory to the first, is that as you know we are still in a relatively fragile recovery, and we want to avoid taking fiscal actions that will push the economy back into recession. that was one of the risks that
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the fiscal cliff post, that if tax increases and spending cuts of that size were also to occur in the short run, the cbo and others estimated that unemployment would rise, we very well might go back to come into a recession. so the challenge is to achieve long run sustainability without unduly hampering the recovery, which we have. now, the deal that was struck, together with the previous work and 2011 that involved some spending cuts, made some progress in both of these goals. on long run sustainability at least over the next decade or so we have some -- we have seen some movement toward stability in terms of the debt to gdp ratio for example. more work to be done for sure. a lot more work to be done over the longer period, but some progress there.
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and then on the short run, the fiscal cliff deal, on new years, eliminate a good bit of the restrictive components of the fiscal policy that would have had such adverse effect. again, not completely but at least a good start. so there was a bit of progress on both of these two goals. very importantly. but i should, hasten to say that we're not out of the woods because we are approaching a number of other fiscal critical watersheds coming up. we've got the funding of the government. we've got the so-called sequester, which is a set of automatic spending cuts that were delayed by two months as part of the fiscal cliff arrangement, and we have the infamous debt ceiling which will come into play.


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